Topeka Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Tuesday that he is reaching outside the circles of state government by selecting Salina businessman Tracey Mann to be the next lieutenant governor of Kansas.
Mann will be officially sworn in as the state’s 50th lieutenant governor at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Statehouse.
Mann, 41, is currently the managing director and principal of Newmark Grubb Zimmer, a commercial real estate company headquartered in Kansas City. Before joining that company, he served as senior program director for the National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values.
Colyer made the announcement before an annual legislative banquet sponsored by the Kansas Livestock Association, stressing that he believes agriculture remains the backbone of the Kansas economy.
“I wanted somebody who is a strong leader, a go-getter, someone who got things done, someone who listened and was truly in touch with the challenges of our rural communities, of our agricultural communities, of the backbone of our state” Colyer said as he introduced his choice. “And I’m glad to report to you that I have found somebody with those skills.”
After the announcement, Mann told reporters that he supports Colyer’s political and policy agenda.
“I agree with the governor that we need to continue to work on reforms, jobs and education,” he said. “Those things are important, and I look forward to seeing what our future holds.”
Colyer said Mann will not only serve as lieutenant governor through the end of this administration, but will also be Colyer’s running mate in the 2018 election.
Colyer also said Mann will be a full-time lieutenant governor, and he will not be assigned additional duties as a cabinet secretary, as some previous governors have done with their lieutenant governors.
The choice of Mann as lieutenant governor surprised many observers because his name had not been among those whom people had speculated to be in consideration. Colyer, however, would not comment on any other candidates who may have been considered.
“There’s lots of rumors,” Colyer told reporters. “Tracey is the long list and the short list. And here’s the thing, we kept him from you, so I thought that was pretty cool.”
Mann is expected to add some regional balance to the Colyer campaign. Although Colyer was born and raised in Hays, he is known professionally as a Johnson County plastic surgeon whose first political campaign was running for Congress in 2002 from the 3rd District of suburban Kansas City.
The job of lieutenant governor became vacant Jan. 31 when Colyer was sworn in as governor, succeeding former Gov. Sam Brownback who resigned to accept a diplomatic post in the Trump administration.
Mann said he does not have any direct experience in government or public policy, although he did run unsuccessfully for the 1st District congressional seat in 2010, placing third in the GOP primary behind incumbent Tim Huelskamp and former Sen. Jim Barnett, who is now competing with Colyer for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“I think business experience matters a lot in this state, and I think you’ve seen the governor take steps to run the state more like a business,” he said. “I’m excited to bring those skill sets and that background to bear for this office.”
During his congressional campaign, Mann stirred controversy by suggesting multiple times that then-President Barack Obama should produce his birth certificate to prove that he was really an American citizen.
Asked about those comments, however, Mann said he learned from his mistakes.
“You know, I had a football coach one time who said when you make a mistake, you don’t make excuses and you move on,” he said. “And I made some mistakes in that race, but I’ve moved on.”
Ethan Corson, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, issued a statement after the announcement saying Colyer had chosen a lieutenant governor in the same mold as former Gov. Brownback.
“Tonight Gov. Jeff Colyer had an opportunity to make a clean break with the failed Brownback agenda he has supported and abetted for seven years. Colyer’s choice of Tracey Mann, a fellow Brownback donor and enabler, reflects his stubborn unwillingness to move beyond Brownback’s failed agenda,” Corson said. “It is clear that the Colyer-Mann administration will be nothing more than a third Brownback term.”